Being over 7 feet tall is a perspective that many of us never have to adjust to. Whether it’s ducking through every doorway or not being able to fit in sedans, life presents a challenging obstacle course for those who tower over the population.
These guys are even giants relative to NBA players. A guy who’s 7’3’’ is still a whole foot taller than a 6’3’’ point guard who gets gawked at whenever he goes to a restaurant because he’s so tall.
San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic is listed at 7’3’’, and part of the reason he has captured the imagination of fans is because of what he’s able to do on the court with his remarkable size.
How would Marjanovic fare in a 1-on-1 tournament against his NBA peers? This specific tournament would be limited to the best players in the NBA standing at 7’1’’ or taller. This is the 5th installment of my hypothetical 1-on-1 tournaments.
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The first division I did was the “very small” category of players between 5’9’’-6’0’’. Chris Paul won it. The next division was the “small” category of players between 6’1’’-6’4’’. Russell Westbrook won it.
The “very tall” category will feature the 8 best players in the NBA standing at least 7’1’’. After much internal deliberation, I came up with the rankings of 1) Marc Gasol… 2) Kristaps Porzingis… 3) Rudy Gobert… 4) Tyson Chandler… 5) Boban Marjanovic… 6) Timofey Mozgov… 7) Alexis Ajinca… and 8) Alex Len.
The hypothetical tournament will consist of 1-on-1 games to 21. In the first round, the 1 seed plays the 8 seed, the 2 seed plays the 7 seed, the 3 seed plays the 6 seed, and the 4 seed plays the 5 seed. Each round afterwards, the highest remaining seed will play the lowest remaining seed. Play continues until a champion is crowned.
Relatively speaking, less perimeter play occurred in this tournament as opposed to previous contests. These centers and power forwards primarily battled it out in the paint.
For the speed that some of these games lacked, it was compensated for with power and grit. These games proved to be tenacious battles of will between hulking forces. The eventual winner certainly earned the distinction amongst the talented competitors.
Next: First Round: Gasol vs. Len
Jan 11, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) drives to basket against Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) during the game at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Gasol has been one of the best interior defenders in the NBA for years now. He won NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. What’s remarkable is that Gasol has established himself as a premier defender at the center position without having to rely on gaudy block totals to draw attention to his talent. He stands at 7’1’’, yet has never averaged 2 blocks per game in any NBA season. He’s just a formidable presence down low. His lack of leaping ability is evidenced by the fact that he often doesn’t leave the ground on his jump shots. He’s a great midrange shooter, though, and a more efficient shooter outside the paint than inside this past season. Len had a bad year shooting. He shot about 42% from the field, dragged down by converting just over 32% of his 192 midrange jumpers attempted. He’s not particularly gifted offensively, and Gasol is able to shut him down. Gasol bullies him in most aspects, and cruises to an easy victory.
Next: First Round: Porzingis vs. Ajinca
March 11, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during a stoppage in play against Los Angeles Clippers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Porzingis has skills that are very unusual in a player his size. The quickness and athleticism he possesses at 7’3’’ and 240 LBS make him a matchup nightmare for anybody who has to guard him. His 3-point stroke needs improvement, but he had a great year shooting the ball from midrange. He’s much more proficient at finishing to the left of the rim than to the right of the rim inside, and that’s a quirk that Ajinca should look to take advantage of. Ajinca shoots well on the low block, and has a nice midrange touch. Porzingis is just so much more athletic than him. Whether it’s the explosiveness on offense or the prolific shot blocking, Porzingis handles Ajinca and advances to the next round.
Next: First Round: Gobert vs. Mozgov
Apr 11, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) lies on the court after being injured during the first half against the Dallas Mavericks at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Neither one of these guys is an overtly skilled offensive player, but they are both big bodies who are tenacious defenders and rebounders. Gobert converts over 58% of his shots in the paint, but he only shot 9 times outside of the painted area during this past regular season. He doesn’t have an array of post moves, but leans on his frame to get easy baskets. Gobert ranked 3rd in the NBA in block percentage this regular season, and is one of the best rim protectors in the league. Mozgov is a better offensive player than Gobert. He’s the superior inside scorer as well as a very proficient midrange shooter, albeit more from the left side of the court. Gobert is the better defender, but Mozgov can still practice bruising interior defense, and he has more ways to score than Gobert does. Mozgov ends up pulling out a win.
Next: First Round: Chandler vs. Marjanovic
Jan 26, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Phoenix Suns center Tyson Chandler (4) shoots a foul shot against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first half at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2012, and he’s still one of the best defenders in the league at the center position. On offense, he isn’t known as a dynamic inside scorer, but takes what he can get and can finish effectively inside. Marjanovic can use his youth as an advantage in this matchup. Although 1-on-1 is a different scenario, few players are capable of the impact Marjanovic can have on the game, even if it came in short spurts this past season. He ranked 3rd in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating, illustrating his abilities on both offense and defense. Marjanovic is 7’3’’ and 290 LBS, and he’s able to use his size and quickness against Chandler. He’s a great inside scorer, and his midrange shooting looked very promising after his rookie season. Marjanovic edge out Chandler with his more energetic offensive game. Chandler holds his own defensively, but his inside scoring skills can’t keep up with Marjanovic’s ability.
Next: Semifinals: Gasol vs. Marjanovic
Jan 18, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) reacts after being called for a foul against New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) at FedExForum. Memphis defeated New Orleans 101-99. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Marjanovic was able to get past a defensive stalwart like Chandler, but Chandler doesn’t have the offensive skills that Gasol has. Marjanovic has to face yet another former DPOY, and this time it proves to be too much. Gasol has anchored the Memphis Grizzlies defense for years, making it a huge challenge for opposing teams to score inside. Gasol is able to handle Marjanovic, and is able to control the game on offense with his midrange shooting ability. Gasol only shot about 3 percentage points higher in the painted area than outside the paint this past season, indicating his comfort zone extends beyond just the low block. Gasol simply proves to be too much.
Next: Semifinals: Porzingis vs. Mozgov
Feb 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) moves the ball during the third quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden. Toronto Raptors won 122-95. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mozgov goes from a stationary, interior wall to an athletic shot creator. Gobert and Porzingis are two very different defensive assignments, and Mozgov is clearly more suited trying to contain a guy like Gobert. Porzingis can drag Mozgov out to the perimeter, where he is far less comfortable playing defense. With Gobert, Mozgov could adequately battle for position inside, but guarding Porzingis requires more lateral quickness. Porzingis a fantastic inside scorer, and is developing into a solid rim protector with his long arms. Porzingis poses too much of a challenge for Mozgov, and the New York Knicks rookie advances to the finals.
Next: Finals: Gasol vs. Porzingis
Feb 5, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) battle for a rebound during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
This ends up being an extremely competitive game. Gasol realizes that Porzingis is incredibly quick for his size, but Gasol is capable of guarding nearly any of his peers. Porzingis tries to antagonize Gasol outside of the paint, and use his long arms to impede any separation Gasol tries to create. Porzingis is able to force Gasol into some bad shots inside. Gasol shot worse in the painted area this season than he typically has in the past, and Porzingis knows that Gasol is at his most vulnerable. Porzingis similarly was more effective from midrange than the post relative to league averages, and Porzingis uses his athleticism for his frame to create shots for himself more effortlessly, despite a great defender like Gasol furiously contesting most shots. In the end, Porzingis hits a few more midrange jumpers than Gasol is able to, and ends up being crowned the 1-on-1 king of the NBA giants.